Putting together your baby registry is nothing if not overwhelming.
There are over 60,000 options on Amazon.com alone.
You already know you don't need everything marketed to parents-to-be.
feather your nest?
As soon as you enter the world of, say, the "baby" category on Amazon, you're bombarded with things you may have never even considered, along with marketing messages preying on your fears and concern for your baby's wellbeing.
After all, throughout pregnancy, you're biologically primed to "feather your nest" with anything and everything you may need to keep you baby safe and comfortable.
Plus you may have conversations with other well-meaning parents in which they mention things you never even though about, things like "pee-pee tents," and "diaper genies."
(Scroll down to see the "What to Skip" list for more on this.)
Having been there, done that (and come out on the other side with a healthy, happy preschooler) I can tell you definitively that you don’t need most of what is suggested.
Here’s what we did
My husband and I created a minimalist baby registry four years ago for our (then) baby. We were planning to continue our low-stuff nomadic lifestyle, so everything we purchased needed to travel with us or be easy to pass along when we were done with it.
I'll share the results of hours of pre-purchase research and road testing. I'll update this list with what I've learned four years down the road, including what I might do differently if I had to do it all over again.
Who it’s for
The checklist will be helpful for you or any friends or family members you have who are expecting a baby and are on a budget or living a minimalist lifestyle.
Traveling with a baby
This list will also be helpful for travel lovers who don't want to give up those weekend getaways and vacations abroad just because they are having baby. If you travel frequently, it's important for your baby’s comfort (and your own!) that you can easily create a similar environment on the road as the one at home. Therefore, you don’t want too many specialty items at home that you can’t easily take with you to be part of your baby’s daily routine.
time range covered
The list is intended to provide for age newborn up to 6 months old, but many things will serve long past that 6-month mark.
The Registry Essentials Checklist
1. The sleeping situation: a play yard with mattress, protector, and 3 fitted sheets
We used a portable play yard for a safe and comfy place for our baby to sleep all the time. No crib. Our version from Graco came with a removable bassinet that hangs inside it and can be used in the early months for sleeping. Make sure you get a safe mattress protector and fitted sheets approved to be used with your play yard. If I were going to be in the same place for years, I might buy a crib, but a foldable play yard was a great option for full-time sleeping for us. It traveled well, and he slept well when we traveled since it was the same environment he was in at home.
A play yard is also light weight and has two wheels, so it can easily be dragged into another room, if say, you want to catch up on your email while the baby naps next to you in your office space.
2. Baby carrier for baby wearing
I made a decision to avoid strollers for the first four months and I'd make the same decision again. Having only the carrier was great for bonding with my baby, gaining strength, and losing the pregnancy weight. But mostly it's about bonding with baby and keeping that little cherub's ear right on your heartbeat, skin to skin, as often as possible.
There are a lot of options, so it's really important to get one that suits newborn up to 40 pounds and that you can choose from lots of placement options.
I bought an Ergobaby first, but later replaced it with the EVEN more adjustable and ergonomic LILLEbaby. I felt duped by Ergobaby into buying a special infant insert that I then had to store, unused, because he quickly grew out of it. I couldn't donate it because it's such a specific piece. Also, the one I bought couldn’t do front-facing forward carry. Turns out they have one that does it all, I just bought the wrong one.
The LILLEbaby doesn't require any extra accessories. There's a strap inside that easily folds away when you don't need it; you put a folded blanket over the strap to support your newborn. Brilliant.
The LILLEbaby also has other advantages over Ergobaby, including a few small but very thoughtful design improvements, such as a pad to protect your chest from the front strap when doing a backpack style carry. Overall, my sense was that the LILLEbaby designers care more about moms and dads because the product is slightly more adjustable, a touch better designed. And just a little better makes all the difference.
I could weep tears of joy over the ease and comfort of the LILLEbaby. Heartily recommended.
3. Car seat
Always a must. And please, please, get one that is easy to uninstall and reinstall. Especially if you travel a lot. I wish I could recommend the one we ended up with, but I can’t. It just wasn’t that easy to install.
You may want to get one that is part of a travel (stroller) system. See below for a recommendation on a stroller travel system.
We didn't get a stroller until our baby was more than 4 months old. When we did buy a stroller, we got away with a nice umbrella stroller.
Later, I bought a used BOB running stroller which I have mixed feelings about. (The feelings: they are not allowed in airports due to their large size, but that size is useful sometimes for protection in a crowd, and it's certainly nice to run with your baby, but on the other hand, running is important alone time if you can get a sitter, friend, or partner to care for your baby while you take care of yourself.)
If you want to make a travel system stroller part of your registry, someone I trust just did a whole lot of research and settled on this one which works from newborn up to preschool age and includes a car seat.
We opted not to go with a travel system because they are a bit heavier and a lot more expensive than an umbrella stroller and car seat, and because like I wrote before, I wanted to maximize the time I was actually wearing my baby in the carrier.
Getting used to baby wearing takes a bit of patience and effort, and I was afraid if I had the option to keep my newborn in a seat or stroller instead of learning the carrier, I would.
5. Video monitor
This was not on my original list and I regret it. I spent too much time anxious about my baby when he was napping. I didn't have a way to check him without going into his room, which would potentially wake him up. I'd recommend a video monitor so you can do a quick visual check every time your "mommy anxiety" kicks in.
However, I've heard that it's best to avoid the monitors that go with you when you're running errands or on a date night. Get someone you trust to watch over your baby, and trust them. Otherwise you'll be on the monitor the whole time you're out.
6. Diapers and wipes
We started with size newborn diapers and we had to size up about once a month, so don't buy too many. Those little bums grow fast! We used about 100 per month in general, and maybe more those first couple months when we changed him more often than was necessary since we were learning his habits (and the amazing capacity of diapers). We used disposable.
I know people who use cloth diapers. They should all be sainted. You're making your life 100% harder and it's already hard to be a parent.
"What about the landfills?" you ask. If you take the time you save not doing cloth diapers, and apply it towards getting your PhD in environmental studies, you will have solved global warming and figured out a way to get enough clean energy from trash to supply the energy needs of the entire human population by the time your kid is done with diapers.
In other words? Take the time you save and make the world the better place in a way you are uniquely suited to. That might be cloth diapering, but I’d rather see your time, intellect, and creativity applied to bigger world problems.
7. White noise machine
To this day, our son sleeps with this white noise machine. It's small and portable. I love it. It has helped me get a great night’s sleep in a city hotel under construction. It helps our kid sleep while we’re watching Netflix. Highly recommended.
8. Easy clothing
Sometimes I think the designers of baby clothes don't actually have children themselves. They may have never even cared for a baby. I was shocked by how difficult baby clothes are to use. This is an area that a good designer needs to take on.
In the meantime, buy a few onesies, rompers, pants, soft hats, and socks. Make sure everything is soft. Your friends are: zippers and minimal snaps. Your enemies are: buttons and too many snaps. Also, easy access to the diaper area is key. Kids grow really fast (and in spurts) so this is a buy-as-needed area.
9. Large washable underpads (4)
I didn’t know these existed until I went to the hospital to give birth. Then we sort of not exactly accidentally stole one from the hospital. (It was my bed pad giving me a little extra security of not staining the sheets during recovery. ) When I called the hospital to confess our crime, they told me, understandably, to just keep it.
It has been amazing for so many things. For changing diapers on, we just placed it on the floor or bed and changed the baby there. We’d throw it in the washer and dryer and it would always come out clean and like new. Oh, it's also good for tummy time. It travels well too, folding up to the size of a light jacket. Now it doubles as a "in case" pad under our kid’s sheets for night potty training.
It’s likely the hospital sourced it from a medical supply company. However, I think I found it on Amazon for you. Check out this 4-pack. AMAZING. Also good for pets? What? How many uses does this product have? And they are SO washable.
10. Packaged snacks stashes and (very specific ) water cups with lids. (for you, breastfeeding mom)
This is a hindsight addition to this list. Those first few weeks of breastfeeding were hard. When I'd finally get my baby latched on, I'd settle back into the chair, couch, or bed, and immediately get hit with undeniable, dying-in-the-desert thirst along with hunger pangs. But I couldn't move because that would disrupt the latch we'd just worked so hard for. So usually I'd yell for my husband to bring me water and snacks. But sometimes he couldn't hear me or wasn't home.
So HIDE PACKAGED SNACKS around your house. Before you go into labor, put them under your mattress, between couch cushions, inside of decorative pottery, EVERYWHERE!
And you'll usually only have one hand available, so don't sit down with a bottle of water. (I can't open a bottle of water with one hand. Just me?) And don't sit down with an open top cup because you'll also be clumsy from sleep deprivation and that water will spill. You need a jumbo cup with a lid and straw.
When baby is hungry, first fill your cup. Literally. You won't want to, because when your baby is crying all you can think about is making your baby feel better, but learn from my experience, please, so you don't spend that precious breastfeeding time feeling thirsty and deprived.
11. Breast pump
In some places your insurance company is required by law to provide one to you. This is vital to have before the baby comes, as you'll want to have it on hand during those first few days and weeks of learning how to breastfeed – when you're engorged and the baby hasn't learned how to effectively nurse on a very full breast.
(Again, learn from my mistakes. My pump hadn’t yet arrived I was one udderly miserable dairy queen that first week. I had to bring a specialist in to help me get the milk to come out the first time. A pump would have solved the problem in a few seconds.)
When my pump finally arrived, I loved it. You want to go for a “hospital grade” machine. While I didn’t try other pumps, (so I can’t compare it to others) I do highly recommend the one I chose from my insurance company’s offerings.
After searching Amazon, I think I found it; I’m 98% certain the one I used is this model.
12. 2-4 bottles with nipples for pumped breast milk
If you’re going back to work full time, and plan to pump, you may need a cooler and more than four bottles.
However, for starters, 2-4 bottles should be fine until you get a feel for things.
If you get the above recommended breast pump, it comes with two bottles. You can also register for this bundle which comes with four bottles and a tote bag.
13. Bottle brush for cleaning bottles and nipples
Specialized baby bottle brushes come with a larger brush for inside the bottle and a smaller part for cleaning nipples.
14. Breast milk freezer bags
It’s nice to have special bags that look different than regular freezer storage bags. Breast milk bags are tall and narrow, making them easier to pour into a bottle than your standard zip lock bags.
15. 4-10 lightweight swaddling blankets
These are for swaddling and burping and cleaning random baby messes. These won't last long for swaddling but will be vital for many months for those sudden spills that come out of babies.
16. Sleep sacks
The swaddling days don't last long for most babies, and blankets get kicked off or become hazardous. Get several sleep sacks for chilly nights when your baby’s sleepwear won't provide enough warmth on its own.
17. Baby soap or wash
18. Something for sore nipples
Lanolin is the recommended product. I tried it, but then switched to coconut oil. I prefer the smell, and that it's from a plant rather than an animal. And it seems to heal my skin fast. Whatever you choose, have it on hand before you give birth because sore nipples are as bad as they sound.
19. Baby oil/moisturizer
I prefer a natural plant oil like olive, coconut, almond, or jojoba.
A rant on pediatricians and products: Doctors like to recommend stuff that is branded for baby. Remember that doctors, like you, watch advertisements and make assumptions about the health of products. I have found that I have done more research about normal baby skincare and common baby issues than any doctor I have visited and can anticipate their suggestions. Doctors google things like the rest of us. They aren't "in the thick of it" like you are with your baby, awake at three am, looking up that random baby question on your phone.
Where we really need pediatricians' valuable knowledge and training is if your baby gets sick and to administer the life-saving vaccines that keep your baby healthy. So go take your baby in for check ups but don't be surprised if you know more about, for example, where lanolin comes from, than your doctor. Remember that there is no reason for natural, non-patentable products to be heavily researched since no one is making gobs of money from them.
20. Diaper rash cream (a tube per month)
If you are lucky your baby will respond well to coconut oil to heal and prevent diaper rash, thus items # 18, 19, and 20 can all be covered with a jar or two of organic coconut oil. For our baby, coconut oil ended up being more effective than the leading diaper rash cream, if a bit messier.
21. Pacifier (maybe a couple with different types of nipple for baby to try)
22. Super seat/stuck seat
The gist is: somewhere you can stick your kid nearby and you know they're safe while you take a shower. It's a peace of mind thing.
We started using the super seat once baby could hold head up on his own. Our version was called a super seat because it is a supportive chair, a booster seat, a snack tray, and a toy-holder all in one. Later, he used the booster part in place of a high chair. It came with straps to safely attach to a regular kitchen chair.
We bought something very similar to this (same brand, different toy theme). However, were I to do it again, I’d probably try to find one with higher ratings. There were a few buggy things that could be better. I don’t think toys need to be attached. Babies quickly tire of the attached toys and want to play with something else (see below section on skipping toys). Also, over time the hard-to-clean toys get undeniably… gunky.
23. A napper or co-sleeper.
It's nice to have something safe you can put your baby down in when you want them napping near you, but you don't want to put them in a crib or drag a play yard to your space. They'll quickly grow out of a napper, so make it affordable or get it pre-owned. In Finland they use a cardboard box! It really just needs to be a flat, safe, comfortable place for your baby to sleep. Do your research and get something that suits your lifestyle and parenting style.
24. Forehead thermometer
I had to pick up one of these in a hurry after our son was born. Although the hospital actually gave us a thermometer in a baby gift pack, it was a standard insertion thermometer.
An insertion thermometer is the last thing your baby wants to deal with when she or he is feeling ill. And I can’t blame a baby for not wanting cold metal stuck in any orifice, at any time, sick or healthy. So I found myself delaying taking my son’s temperature when I suspected he had a fever. As soon as we got a forehead thermometer my parental anxiety decreased quite a bit as it made taking his temperature, and usually finding out there was no fever, easy.
I purchased mine in a CVS store, but if you, wise planner that you are, want to put one on an Amazon Registry, here’s a suggestion.
25. Baby Movement Monitor
I almost left this one off the list. It had a tendency to slip off my baby’s diaper, which meant that there were a few false alarms that had me up in the middle of the night, nervous, sweaty, heart racing before I checked on him and saw he was fine.
However. Last night I had a vivid dream taking me back to those early days of caring for my newborn. I remember how hard it was to actually get restful sleep because I was worried he would stop breathing in the middle of the night. So this item is going back on the list.
I should also tell you I didn’t suffer from anxiety before having a baby. Parenthood changes you in unpredictable ways, and for me there was a huge increase in anxiety.
So my final verdict is that if this device (we bought, and recommend the Snuza Hero Baby Movement Monitor) will help you have peace of mind so you can snatch some good sleep when your baby is sleeping, get it.
I think it’s worth it.
What to skip
Now that you know the 25 essentials, here’s what you can save your money on.
Babies are entertained easily. Crinkling paper. A spoon. Their own ear. Toys are really not necessary until later. Plus you'll unavoidably collect toys as gifts because they are fun for friends and family to buy for you.
2. Specialized baby moisturizers
These can contain nasty chemicals. Just stick with pure plant oils like coconut, olive, and jojoba. Always check your baby for signs of an allergic reaction when putting something new on their skin.
3. High chair
I never understood high chairs. They're huge. Why buy such a big thing when you can get a small booster seat and the baby can sit with the family at the table? Plus their height, higher than a normal chair, means a fall would be more dangerous. And, here’s a parenting secret no one talks about: every baby falls. There’s gonna be a fall. All you can do is your best. But they’re gonna fall. Make sure it’s from as low a point as possible.
4. A changing table
A huge piece of unnecessary furniture. Also a falling risk. Floor or bed changes are easy and safer.
5. Pee pee tent
Alert: if you have a boy, he might pee on you when you change his diaper. Pee pee tents are little tents you put over his penis during that brief window of risk while you change his diaper. Nope. Just put your hand over the stream so it doesn't hit your face. Otherwise, let the poor guy get some airflow during diaper changes.
6. Wipes warmer
Nope. Get used to the refreshing coolness of wipes in their natural state, kid.
7. Diaper genie
Just put those dirty diapers in a bag and tie it off. Maybe get a trash can with a lid if the smell is really bad. You don't need a specialty trash can (with moving parts liable to break and specialty supplies to be purchased at regular intervals).
8. Anything with buttons
9. Complicated wraps for baby wearing
Don't buy anything that needs a tutor, class or more than one person to put on. Just go with one baby wearing product. The already-mentioned easy, highly adjustable, works-for-mom-and-dad LILLEbaby.
10. Crib accessories
Some crib accessories like bumper pads can put baby at risk.
Other accessories to avoid include those light up, large, plastic things that play lullabies and have colorful visuals and usually attach to the side of a crib. Remember that whatever becomes part of your baby's going-to-sleep ritual must be repeated every single night and nap, sometimes for years.
You really don't want anything that is so specific that it can't be easily replaced or repeated. You likely wouldn't travel with the light-up plastic thing, so I'd recommend skipping it if you want to travel easily with your baby.
11. Bottle/pacifier sterilizer.
Buy things that are dishwasher safe or clean them with hot soapy water. Over-sterilizing may rob your baby of a healthy microbiota.
12. And... everything else not on the above list of essentials.
That’s right, you don’t need special baby combs or brushes, breastfeeding pillows (which are remarkably similar to regular pillows), or any of the other 60,000 items in the Amazon baby store alone. Stick with the 25 essentials listed on the checklist above and you should have everything you need for your baby to thrive.
Here’s a quick summary of what to put on your registry (in image form):
You know what to get for your bundle of joy, and what to skip.
Now go get that registry done!
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